Keep The Flow Going: How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing During Deep Freezes
Why You Shouldn't Settle for Ice-Filled Plumbing
People have their differing opinions on cold weather, but nobody likes it when Jack Frost nips at their plumbing. Frozen pipes do more than make it hard to do the dishes or take a hot shower; they can also explode, leading to flooding and seriously costly material damage. Here are a few tips on how you can make your piping less susceptible to freezing solid.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Any plumbing that gets exposed to sub-zero temperatures runs the risk of freezing. According to some research, the most common high-risk areas include piping that runs through uninsulated basements or attics. Supply line plumbing that's connected to exterior feeds, like a garden hose tap, is also extremely vulnerable. While these pipes aren't likely to solidify after only a brief bout of cold air, many a homeowner has been dismayed to discover a burst pipe after a single night of below-freezing temperatures.
Check for drafty areas that let cold exterior air come into contact with piping. These locations are usually notorious for trouble, and plugging the leaks that expose them to the elements is an easy fix. Main supply conduits that pass through exterior walls to enter your building should also be protected.
What's the Best Way to Keep Pipes Warm?
You don't have to do that much work to raise the temperature of your plumbing. In most cases, you can complete the job in a weekend afternoon by installing fiberglass, foam or foil-bearing insulation around the piping you're concerned with. Insulating sleeves come in ready-to-apply, open-edged tubes that wrap around the piping in question, and they're easy to cut to appropriate lengths with a regular pair of scissors.
When insulation alone isn't enough to beat low temperatures, you can try heating tape. Actually a piece of insulated cable that radiates heat when it's powered on, heating tape is a straightforward solution to the problem of heat loss in piping, and unlike permanent systems, it doesn't require specialized wiring.
If you're concerned about your power bill going up because you've installed heat tape, you can also add a thermostat that only turns the device on when the temperature reaches a preset minimum. Similarly, you'll probably find that your heat tape is more effective if you combine it with insulation to prevent the warmth it generates from escaping.
Finally, if you're unable to insulate certain piping sections or lines, don't be afraid to leave them dripping or simply evacuate them completely. This is especially advisable if you're headed away on vacation. Taking a few minutes to cut off the water at the supply valves and drain the piping from the faucets is a much better alternative to coming home to an exploded conduit later. You can discover more about caring for your plumbing year-round by visiting the Rocky’s Hardware blog.